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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

India, EU agree to resume trade pact talks after 8 years

The trade negotiations were suspended in 2013 after several rounds of talks spanning six years. Both sides have worked intensively over the last few months to arrive at a common understanding, officials said.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: May 9, 2021 12:11:23 am
India and EU to resume negotiations for FTA after 8 yrs; Launch comprehensive connectivity partnership Virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the heads of state or government of all the 27-member states of the bloc. (Twitter/@MEAIndia)

After eight years, India and the European Union Saturday agreed to resume talks for a comprehensive trade agreement. The two sides also agreed to begin negotiations for a standalone investment protection pact.

The developments happened at the virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the heads of state or government of all the 27-member states of the bloc.

Officials said negotiations on both the trade and investment agreements will be pursued parallelly to achieve an early conclusion.

The trade negotiations were suspended in 2013 after several rounds of talks spanning six years. Both sides have worked intensively over the last few months to arrive at a common understanding, officials said.

“The decisions are also a result of the political desire on both sides to harness the full potential of our economic engagement and work towards an early post-Covid recovery,” an official said.

The two sides also launched a “connectivity partnership” to pursue sustainable joint projects in other countries, particularly those in Africa, Central Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Modi and the other leaders exchanged views on the pandemic and healthcare cooperation.

A joint statement said: “We committed to work together to better prepare for and respond to global health emergencies. We agreed to cooperate on resilient medical supply chains, vaccines and the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), and on the application of international good manufacturing standards to ensure high quality and safety of products.”

“Prime Minister also requested the EU’s support for our joint proposal with South Africa for a TRIPS waiver on vaccine production-related patents. The US has also supported the proposal a couple of days ago. The EU’s support at WTO for this waiver will ensure that we can scale up the vaccine production for equitable and global access and save lives,” said Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs.

The India-EU leaders’ meeting was hosted by Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa. Portugal currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

“We are opening a new chapter in #EUIndia strategic partnership at the meeting of EU Leaders with PM @narendramodi,” tweeted European Council president Charles Michel.

Swarup said PM Modi talked about the “rationale of a stronger relationship of India with not just with EU but with all the EU Member States and described the India-EU strategic partnership as a force multiplier for the global good in the 21st century”.

In addition to the presidents of the EU Council and EU Commission, leaders of as many as 19 EU Member States spoke during the meeting.

This is an indication that the priority accorded by the EU to relations with India is shared across the board by all its Member States.

“The European Union is an important partner for India. Our common values such as democracy, rule-of-law and fundamental freedoms make us natural partners to meet the shared challenges in an increasingly multipolar world. At the same time, the political logic of a stronger India and the EU is complemented by compelling economic rationale. The EU was our largest trading partner in goods 2019-20, ahead of China and the US, with total trade close to USD 90 billion. The EU’s strength in regulatory matters and standards is also of value to India. We are already closely cooperating on digital standards. It has also taken a lead in Sustainable Financing. For a more ambitious India, the EU is a natural partner,” Swarup said.

Modi was scheduled to visit Portugal for the leaders’ meeting but it was called off because of the coronavirus crisis and both sides decided to hold the deliberations virtually.

A strategically important grouping, the EU as a whole was India’s largest trading partner in 2018. India’s bilateral trade with the EU in 2018-19 stood at USD 115.6 billion with exports valued at USD 57.17 billion and imports worth USD 58.42 billion.

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